[MUSIC: Interview] Dappled Cities
As I discuss the long career of Dappled Cities with singer/guitarist Dave Rennick, neither of us can hide the astonishment at the fact it’s already been three years since the release of Zounds, a sprawling album that found the band at their most experimental and – at times – dark. There was, of course, their magnificent performance at 2009’s Splendour In The Grass and the subsequent sideshow tour, which saw the Sydney five-piece don lightbulb suits every time they played ‘The Price’ (to say nothing of the gold superhero outfits of Laneway 2010); and then there was another domestic tour that year, and a slot at last year’s Harvest Festival. But after that, things got a little quiet for a large chunk of time – most of which was spent writing the songs that have formed the band’s impossibly-bright new album, Lake Air.
“After Zounds came out, we immediately went to the States and the UK to live – we haven’t really spent a long time in the UK, but we gave it a good crack,” Dave recalls. “We were all living at the same two-bedroom flat in Islington and gigged like crazy. It was really fun! While we were living in London, we decided to write a very different record to Zounds – a concise, consistent record where we wanted to focus not so much on the production or sound, but the songs and lyrics. So we spent a lot of those three years songwriting – Tim [Derricourt] and I even went on a songwriting excursion to hone our skills and become better songwriters. We worked with a whole bunch of people and met our producer-to-be, Jarrad Kritzstein.”
When the band got down to the recording process, it was actually quite a quick and easy process. “We put these songs down very naturally,” he says. “The tracking was really fun – we started them in Jarrad’s studio in LA where we took the songs apart and laid down the foundations, and then we recorded quickly, swiftly. Being our fourth record, you’d think we might be quite good at that… Maybe…” Lake Air certainly does sound like an effortless pop album, I profess. “Oh, that’s nice!” Dave chortles. “‘Effortless’ is a great word to describe what we wanted to show here. Zounds was the opposite – we wanted to show how ambitious and almost… serious we were; Lake Air is most definitely about being effortless. I love that about it.”
It also sounds like the happiest and funkiest Dappled album to date. “Yeah, I’d say so – I mean Granddance was also quite happy, but this one is definitely a combination of ‘happy’, ‘sun’, ‘bright’ and ‘light’ – it’s very spacious, and all these things together bring a very nice vibe to it,” Dave explains. “When you put it together with the falsetto singing and disco rhythms, you’ve got a pretty damn happy album. We don’t consider ourselves the funkiest musicians, but Jarrad, the producer, is definitely a funky musician – his involvement has really spruced things up… Jarrad’s a great combination of a brilliant musician and engineer and a really fun, happy, excitable dude – that’s sort of just what we needed. After ten years of being in a band, we sound like a team going forward, and we’ll definitely be working with him again on the next record – if he lets us. I don’t think we’ve offended him in any way…”
Songs like ‘Run With The Wind’ and ‘Born At The Right Time’ are natural single choices, but Lake Air doesn’t appear to contain a single track without at least one killer hook. “We tried to write catchy songs and we’ve always been accessible to our fans in our approach to songwriting – but after many years, this album is like… ten singles in a row,” Dave says. “There are big choruses everywhere and festival beats all over the place; we’re actually having trouble picking the singles because each song has its own identity. ‘Real Love’ is the frontrunner, as is the title track, but now everyone’s talking about how they like ‘Waves’ a lot and that was really unexpected – even if there’s no drums in ‘Waves’, maybe that’s a single, too. Picking a single is a very dark art and something I don’t claim to be good at – it’s best to follow your instincts in regards to what people are responding to.”
The album’s biggest surprise, though, comes in the shape of the lauded Rennick/Derricourt guitar section taking a back seat, with shimmery synths in their place as the constant for the first time on a Dappled Cities record. “There are even songs on there where I’m not playing guitar at all!” Dave laughs. “Tim’s played on every song – he’s probably the better guitarist out of the two of us – but yeah, there’s less guitar. There’s less everything. Each of us was at a point where they’d go, ‘I don’t need to play my instrument on this song’, and we’ve learned to give each other space lately. Also, I’ve been a bit bored playing guitar these days.” There’s always the keyboard, of course… “There are so many things in the world that make noises,” Dave enthuses. “We want to use them all and we have a temptation to use every single noise we can possibly think of on a record – or even one song. But we’re learning not to do that, because we can get a bit carried away…”
What: Lake Air is out on HUB, through Inertia
Where: Acoustic in-store @ Red Eye, York St.
When: Friday August 3, 5pm